The UK Statistics Authority revealed an official confession today of misdeeds from the Department for Work and Pensions.
The DWP allowed an unauthorised person to see new statistics on jobs before they were published.
That person had then published details of the figures to 300 people on “a social network” belonging to the department, the letter says.
As markets move based on jobs figures, you’d be a lucky person to be in that social network.
It is a running sore point that government ministers and crowds of people around them get access to official statistics before the rest of us.
The UK Statistics Authority has previously warned: “the mere existence of pre-release access can feed public uncertainty about what happens behind the doors of government departments, undermining public confidence both in the statistical evidence and in the policies to which official statistics relate.”
The startlingly casual misuse of privilege by government officials revealed today proves the Authority’s point.
Pre-release access needs to end: the statistics we pay for belong to us all and should be equally available to all.
In the meantime, the department has been politely asked for an assurance “that this cannot and will not happen again”.
A DWP spokesperson said that “we’re committed to complying in every way with the rules set out by the UK Stats Authority. We have put additional measures in place and will respond formally to the UKSA shortly”.
Full Fact has previously raised concerns about pre-release access with MPs, and we will continue to fight this corner.
Update 25 January 2016
We added a response from the DWP.